Cooking the Books: A Flicker of a Doubt by Daryl Wood Gerber

Fairy garden store owner Courtney Kelly is excited about an upcoming art benefit sponsored by wealthy Carmel-by-the-Sea resident Violet Vickers. Violet has commissioned Courtney to build several fairy gardens specially for the event to be integrated into the landscaping Courtney’s father is providing ahead of the affair. Courtney knows that her dad—who doesn’t believe in fairies and wasn’t at all pleased when she left his firm to strike out on her own, more whimsical enterprise—will grumble at what he sees as interference with his artistic vision. She’s looking forward to working with him again regardless.

She is a little surprised however when her best friend, Meaghan Brownie, has far more heated feelings regarding the occasion. As co-owner of Flair, a local art gallery exhibiting at the benefit, Meaghan should be overjoyed at the chance to sell some of her clients’ work to Violet’s well-heeled connections. But her artist ex-boyfriend, Nicolas Buley, is back in town and wants them to get back together romantically. Meaghan can handle him in a professional context—she does still represent his work and is planning on featuring him at Violet’s event, after all. She broke up with him for good reason though, much to the not-so-secret relief of most of her family and friends, Courtney included.

Meaghan isn’t the only person troubled by Nicolas’s reappearance in Carmel. Other artists at Flair hold personal and professional grudges against Nicolas, who’s also seen having less than positive encounters around town with a variety of women. When he’s found dead outside Meaghan’s house, there’s no shortage of suspects who might have wanted to do him in.

Courtney is thus shocked when Meaghan’s business partner, Ziggy Foxx, of all people, is arrested for Nicolas’s murder. The police believe that he killed Nicolas in order to profit from how the artist’s works will skyrocket in value post-mortem. Courtney and Meaghan are both convinced of Ziggy’s innocence and set about looking for the real killer, undaunted by their exceedingly long suspect list.

Fortunately, Courtney has the help of her righteous fairy, Fiona. While there are many things fairies aren’t allowed to do, helping to bring wrongdoers to justice is absolutely within Fiona’s remit. Courtney is going to need all the help she can get as the body count rises and she finds herself face to face with a desperate killer determined to put an end to her pursuit of the truth.

This was another fun installment of the Fairy Garden Mystery series, with a great cliffhanger involving Fiona’s, and thus also Courtney’s, future. The recurring cast is a treat to visit with again, and I did enjoy how Courtney leans on them to help investigate. I could do with fewer unlikely interrogations though. The number of people who willingly answer her rude questions in full is starting to get a lot less believable than the existence of fairies, in my opinion. That aside, this was a charming paranormal-tinged cozy from start to finish.

There are 14 recipes included in this book of dishes Courtney and her friends enjoy over the course of the story. Some of these recipes even have gluten-free versions, but I decided to try this full-gluten treat:

Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies

(Yield: 12 cookies)


1 cup flour

1 tablespoon loose Earl Grey (or tea of your choosing) tea leaves (two tea bags, cut open)

¼ teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 stick butter, softened to room temperature


In a food processor, pulse the flour, loose tea, and salt. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and butter. Pulse until a dough is formed, about 10-20 pulses. Remove dough from container and place on a sheet of plastic wrap. Roll the dough into a log about 6-7 inches long and 2 inches around. Refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice the log into ⅓-inch-thick rounds. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake until the edges are just brown, about 11-12 minutes.

Let the cookies cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and cool to room temperature.

I, unfortunately, kept these in the oven a little too long out of fear of underbaking them in my temperamental oven, but they still came out tasting incredibly delicious! I love how the Earl Grey flavor is infused throughout the cookies, making them a perfect complement for a nice cup of tea. They’re a very simple cookie to put together and, apart from the hour chill time, very fast to make. I’ll absolutely be baking these again soon.

Next week, we travel to the Midwest to clear a heroine’s name of murder while baking up some savory treats. Do join me!

See alsoCooking the Books: Four Parties and a Funeral by Maria DiRico

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